Japan had been hunting whales in the waters off Antarctica for “research” purposes since 1987, killing between 200 and 1,200 whales a year, and conservationists accused the Japanese government of using the hunts as a cover for commercial whaling because much of the meat was eventually sold. Following its decision to leave the International Whaling Commission in December 2018, Japan is ending the Antarctic hunts but resuming commercial whaling in its own waters.
While such actions are deplorable, along with whale killing by Iceland and Norway, yet claimed to be a cultural tradition, concerted efforts by cattle ranchers and trophy hunters to decimate the dwindling wolf population in the U.S. are no less egregious.
The precarious status of the wolf and other endangered species and their habitats in North America are indicative of a nation divided between exploiters and conservationists. The de-listing of the wolf from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act currently being pushed for by the exploiters will do to this indigenous species what the dominant culture did to indigenous peoples one or two generations ago. To make America great, the rights and interests of all must be upheld, without distinction as to species, race or religion.
Reverential respect for all life is the hallmark of a truly democratic, civilized society and the path to one health and justice for all.
Dear Dr. Fox: It’s been my experience that determining if and when to end someone’s life is fraught with uncertainty.
What gives me the greatest pause are the stats on suicide where it is allowed. It’s been legal in the state of Oregon longer than anywhere else in the U.S. From that data, it appears to me that when given the option, most humans would rather put up with misery than choose death. I’m unfamiliar with statistics from other parts of the world; perhaps this is a cultural artifact.
But the Oregon data makes me wonder whether my decision to end an animal’s life might be more about my discomfort and anguish than trying to do what they would say is best for them.
I appreciate your article on this difficult matter. I’m attaching a brief essay recounting one of my experiences in this realm. — R.B., Madison, Wisconsin
Dear R.B.: Your attached account of you euthanizing your cat brought on a flood of memories of beloved and suffering animals that I have killed.
You used a pistol to end the life of your terminally ill and suffering feline companion, reasoning that it was better that you ended your cat’s life rather than some stranger. But this way is not for many people who lack the expertise, if not the courage, and opt for a veterinarian to do the job. Rather than take the animal to a strange place, the veterinary clinic, euthanasia by a licensed animal doctor is best done in-home. In most communities, it is illegal to discharge a firearm.
Without some medical understanding of the animal’s condition, empathy for the animal could be compounded by one’s own associated suffering for the animal and sense of helplessness and uncertainty. This could mean the animal is killed prematurely and might have recovered, so one is filled with self-doubt. Or euthanasia is delayed, and the animal suffers longer than she/he should have.
So a veterinarian should always be present, and for me, I prefer calling in one to our home rather than euthanizing one of our own animals.
Animals rarely lapse into the comatose state seen in people, some who suddenly regain consciousness. Keeping any living being alive at all costs when there can be no quality of life because of a persistent vegetative state is an aspect of the pro-life sentiment that is neither ethical nor compassionate.
R.B. replies: I worked for a small animal vet through high school and assisted with numerous euthanasias; I was being obedient to authority at the time.
The data on assisted suicide in Oregon shows that when pain is successfully managed, humans are far less likely to choose suicide, and even with chronic severe pain, people more frequently choose life over death even when medical assistance is available to them for ending their lives. This causes me to second- and third-guess my actual motivation for deciding to kill someone like Minnie. It’s been my experience that I and others, probably you too, suffer greatly in the face of their suffering. Perhaps I am actually acting on my own behalf rather than theirs. For me, it’s an unsolvable dilemma.
Dear R.B.: I thought I had answered your question to some degree. I will add your response to my column and I hope it will generate more discussion concerning euthanasia.
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